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New app hopes to end lunchtime bullying

Posted September 27

Natalie Hampton decided to create the app “Sit With Us,” so she could do her part to help end schoolyard bullying and make it so children never have to sit alone at lunch. (Deseret Photo)

Your child may never have to sit alone at lunch again.

Natalie Hampton, a 16-year-old, decided to create the app “Sit With Us” so she could do her part to help end lunchtime bullying.

“After I changed schools, whenever I saw someone eating lunch alone, I would always invite the person to join the group,” Hampton wrote on the “Sit With Us” website. “Each time, the person’s face would light up, and the look of relief would wash over the person’s face. Some of those people have become some of my closest friends.”

So how does the app work? You can sign in through Facebook or a new account. It also allows you to sign up as an ambassador, someone who brings people together for lunch. Regardless of your choice, you will then create a profile and have access to featured lunch events around your school.

There’s even a chat option that will allow you to coordinate with friends before lunch.

Hampton started the app because she felt personally rejected at times during lunch. There was even a time where she would sit alone every day during lunch, she told NPR on “All Things Considered.”

“At my old school, I was completely ostracized by all of my classmates, and so I had to eat lunch alone every day,” she said. “When you walk into the lunchroom and you see all the tables of everyone sitting there and you know that going up to them would only end in rejection, you feel extremely alone and extremely isolated, and your stomach drops. And you are searching for a place to eat, but you know that if you sit by yourself, there'll be so much embarrassment that comes with it because people will know and they'll see you as the girl who has nowhere to sit. So there's so many awful feelings that come along with it.”

Will this app make it big? HelloGiggles’ Alim Kheraj thinks so. In fact, Kheraj said it’d be great for the makers of this app to create one for workplaces, too.

“We’d love to see a version of this that extends to workplaces and general day-to-day life,” Kheraj wrote. “We know that we’d DEFINITELY go for an impromptu dinner with a group of strangers by ourselves.”

Bullying happens in workplaces, sure, and also in schools across the country. According to the National Bullying Prevention Center, about 22 percent of students said they were bullied during the school year. Meanwhile, 64 percent of those who were bullied didn’t report it, as only 36 percent actually reported their bullying.

Bullying happens for different reasons, most commonly looks, body size and race or ethnicity, according to the NBPC. About 57 percent of the time it stops, though, when a peer intervenes to end it.

For now, it looks like the app will continue to work well for students. Hampton said she’s already seen some positive results across the board, which she hopes to see continue in the future.

“So far, the results have been very, very positive,” she told NPR. “I had my first club meeting the other day, and everyone was very excited. And people are already posting open lunches at my school. So I'm very excited that things are already kicking off with a great start.”

Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret Digital Media.

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